A SURGE of legal claims for highways trips, slips and car damage was received across Lancashire – ahead of a crackdown on ‘no win, no fee’ deals.

An extra 470-plus claims were reported to the county council’s legal team, from 2011/12 to 2012/13, county councillors have been told.

Last July saw legislat-ion introduced banning ‘conditional fee agreem-ents’, where costs could be recovered from local authorities.

Instead, a 10per cent general increase in damage was allowed for success-ful claimants under the new rules. But there was also a 273per cent increase in the number of veh- icle damage claims, from 317 to 871, often involving wheel and tyre problems, which are usually submitted directly to the council by members of the public.

Back in 2011/12 there were 1,362 highway claims, and this increased to 1,833 for the next 12-month per-iod.

The ‘no win, no fee’ regime ended on July 29 last year.

Bev Cullen, an official in Lancashire County Council chief executive’s depart-ment, said in a report: “It is anticipated that over time, when the new cost regime is fully establ-ished, the total costs pay-able in respect of claims will significantly reduce.

“However, if the county council successfully def-ends a claim after trial the county council’s costs cannot be recovered from the claimant,” she added.

Over the last year, 79per cent of claims were for £500 or less, another 16per cent were for £2,000 or less, and the rest were for £5,000 or less.